Kamal Haasan talks exclusively to Subhash K Jha on his new Hindi-Tamil bi-lingual & passion for films:
Vishwaroopam, your latest brainchild, was supposed to co-star Sonakshi Sinha. What happened?
There were dates issue. We tried to work it out. But there were legal contracts and any delay would have had repercussions. So we had to regretfully move on. But there was no ugliness, no bitterness or ego hassles.
Wasn’t she really young for you?
That was the way it was written. I was playing my age. She was playing hers.
Vishwaroopam is a project whose direction you had to take over?
It was my project and my story. Then time was running out. Sonakshi Sinha’s dates were gone. My dates were also running out. I do one project at a time. If the director doesn’t respect my time, I will have to. I am very clear on this. If my dates are being wasted the project becomes mine. I’ve limited time, what with me celebrating a birthday every year. I wish I could celebrate my birthday like the government, every five years.
Vishwarooopam is said to be inspired by the Anthony Hopkins starrer Hannibal?
After I read that I was really inspired to think about a film based on Hannibal. I may do that in the future. Not this time. Vishwaroopam, I am keeping the theme close to my chest. Here in Tamil Nadu the press has a tendency to jump the gun and draw conclusions and create trouble. For example if I make a spiritual film they’ll say since it’s Kamal Haasan it has to be subversive, so they’ll ban it even before it’s ready.
Where is Vishwaroopam set?
The US, India, UK, Jordon…
It’s being shot simultaneously in two languages?
That’s right. In Hindi and Tamil. My first bi-lingual since Hey Ram. I am happy with the work we’ve done so far. Dasavathaaram got dubbed into Hindi, but the vocabulary was twisted. Unless it’s a really funny film like Appu Raja the dubbing doesn’t work. The culture-specifications come in the way. How do I say Jaise karni vaise bharni in Tamil? That’s why we’re doing a double version of Vishwaroopam and needed a leading lady who had no fear of languages. Om Puri Saab has that fear. He refuses to do a Tamil film. Some people fear the unknown too much. I embrace it.
Your leading lady in Vishwaroopam?
She’s Pooja Kumar, a Broadway actress from New York, Punjabi girl of Indian origin. It’s a big break for her. Vishwaroopam is probably the biggest film being made in Tamil Nadu right now.
You completed 57 years in November. Out of these a good 50 years in front of the camera. Aren’t you exhausted?
The day I start looking at acting as work I would be. Working for money or fame saps you. I stopped doing that 25 years back. The only time I am really happy is when I am in front of the camera. When I am not, I start ruminating, retrospecting and brooding. I equate acting to building card-houses which I used to do as a child. I spent hours doing it. My mother used to shout at me, ‘Are you building the Taj Mahal?’ For me it was building the Taj Mahal. Today I feel like Shah Jehan trying to build something taller than me (my career). My work is my card-house. I truly admire what they do on the beaches of Orissa. They create true work of art on the beaches and then watch the wind and the waters sweep it away.
How do you manage to get so excited about your films even today?
Because the first 100 films that I got were market-driven. They were films which everyone presumed were going by the market demand. Actually there was so much I wanted to do. People advised scolded and counseled me about my career. So one day I woke up and decided to nurture Kamal Haasan, the actor.
Your recent Dasavatharam is apparently a huge hit in Tamil?